Nobody can say this site doesn’t have cool photos. Let’s go back to 1984, the Open tournament in the beautiful Swiss-Italian (Tyrolian) Alps town of Lugano, for this classic.
The hoodie guy with his back to the camera is indefatigable, indomitable IM Jay Whitehead. Of course the person he is analyzing with is the one and only GM Viktor Korchnoi. But look at the all-star kibitzers! Ex-World Champ Boris Spassky is seated next to Korchnoi. GM Florin Gheorghiu is standing next to Spassky. Sergey Kudrin is standing between Spassky and Korchnoi. I don’t know who the two fellows behind Kudrin and Gheorghiu are. The photo is by French photographer Catherine Jaeg. Quite a nice shot, don’t you think?
Why was I playing in this pretty, exotic but rather expensive locale? Because Jay had won enough money for both of us to go with an incredible backgammon streak one evening in New York City. He had gone downtown from our crash pad in Washington Heights and he took a big win away from a Jazz Club owner (I think a famous club, such as Kenny’s Castaways or The Village Gate). As a spiritual footnote, he had previously informed me that his Hare Krishna temple had given him permission to gamble (his other moniker was Jaya Krishna). When he got back, he woke me up to count the 50’s and 100’s bulging out of every one of his pockets. We were on a flight to Milan, Italy only two days later. So we get to Milan. We transfer to a train that will take us from Italy across Lake Como and on into Switzerland. On this train, I meet a panicky Malcolm Pein in the club car. “Mark, there is the most dreadful fellow on this train!” I asked why and he said “he is going on and on about vegetarian food options in Lugano!” I knew right away this was my patron saint, Jay. Malcolm was feeling probably a wee bit put upon but, amusingly, there were decent vegetarian options in meat-crazed Switzerland. Once we got to Lugano, there were a whole bunch of Brits. Glenn Flear, and many more. They had an economy cottage rental and bought enough groceries for the week – very clever. I was rooming with John Fedorowicz. One day we had a surprise visitor: Spassky. More on this later.
Watch this space for some good Lugano 1984 games, including a win over Dutch blabbermouth Erik Knoppert. It’s too bad they discontinued this classic annual Open.